Strange Animals 30aug2018: Counting Up 

Back after an entirely unplanned hiatus. In my drafts, this thing originally said ‘03aug2018’, so that’s how late I am with this. (Speaking of, how the fuck do people who write for a living do this on any kind of regular basis—I have a non-writing creative job and I can’t look at one of these after a hard day.)

And so the attempt to make this an easier and therefore more regular thing continues. I’m stealing a trick from a few newsletters I’ve seen. You’ll figure out the change as we go.


‘Letters and Lines’ is back in a bit. Hass is editing the next episode as we speak, and we’re recording another one today. The upcoming episode will be a bit different from usual. Once again, we’re figuring out how to make this easier for us. Bringing along a topic every time is not that difficult, but saying something about a main topic as intelligently as one can is a bigger cognitive load, and requires a certain concentration one isn’t always able to muster, given that Hass has … what, five actual jobs? … and I take an exceedingly long time to do my one job.


Some of my comics had issues come out in the intervening time. I’m not going back and figuring out exactly which ones I missed since last time, but I believe there was some new stuff from Ram V., some Isola, some Black Crown stuff, and Days of Hate returned for Act 2 with #7 last week. Paste Magazine has a preview of These Savage Shores by Ram V., Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone and me, along with comments from Ram.

Finally, bringing this up-to-date, this week sees the release of Black Cloud Vol. 2, Isola #5, Euthanauts #2, House Amok #1, the Femme Magnifique softcover and the adaptation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine that I lettered for Titan Comics.

Of these, the last two have particular meaning to me. Femme Magnifique was an opportunity to work with one of my absolute comics heroes—Shelly Bond—a collaboration that’s continued into the Black Crown books, two of which are out this week as well. It was also amazing to get to work with more than half my bucket list of creators to work with, while also being an object lesson in how to make a comic. I lettered all but one of the 50 stories therein, and created as many individual title boxes under Shelly’s expert guidance, and probably learnt as much about making comics as I had in my entire career before that.

Getting to letter Yellow Submarine was a similar privilege—I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was a teenager, and a fan of the movie, and Bill Morrison (along with Andrew Pepoy and Nathan Kane) did a fantastic job adapting it, and I was thrilled to be able to make a contribution. This one is with many thanks to fellow letterer Jim Campbell, who put the editor in touch with me for the job.


Currently reading:
The Essays of Elia – Charles Lamb
Jughead in Love – Various

I haven’t read enough of the first to have made up my mind about it. I saw it mentioned in the delightfully titled by sadly tedious movie The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and bought it since I enjoy reading essays and letters of people from different times. So far, it’s overwritten in the manner I might expect from a non-professional writer from the nineteenth century, but I’m going to give it a few essays to pique my interest.

The latter—okay, I’ve been reading a bunch of Archie comics recently. They’re available in these dirt-cheap digital collections on ComiXology, and I’ve just been chomping my way through them. I’ve read through 1000-1500 pages of this stuff, mostly skimming the text and perking up when some Bob Bolling or Harry Lucey art shows up (the latter is a particular favourite, and ought to be deified by modern comics artists for his skill with body language) or when some early Jack Morelli lettering comes up so I can compare it to his later work (he’s the sole reason I own many of the ‘Married Archie’ comics).

So, here’s the thing, I read Archie as a kid. It almost doesn’t count as ‘comics reading’—it was background radiation for my childhood along with Tintin and Asterix comics borrowed from neighbourhood kids. I have a ton of affection for this sort of cleaner-than-reality setting, something out of a ’50s American family movie or the Duck Tales/Tailspin tv shows I watched back then, that always meant the hard part of life (i.e. school) was over.

So I’m familiar with these characters, to say the least. But that’s not why I’ve been reading them now. I’ve been reading them because I finished the Mark Waid Archie series a bit too quickly and I needed some sort of methadone for that. I did take a trip by the Riverdale tv series (which I shamelessly love for how trashy it is) and the Afterlife with Archie comics series (not-so-coincidentally written by the same person who showruns Riverdale, who I think understands the primal appeal of Archie better than a lot of writers, given that he started his writing career with a play basically about Archie), but sometimes I want the cosy stuff and Riverdale, much as I enjoy it, can get too … er, real (trust me, I cringe as I type the word in this context). The Mark Waid series did a great job of introducing a real-feeling continuity to the world and bringing in the teensiest concept of consequences without actually breaking that feeling of nothing really ever going wrong in the world of Archie.

So I went back to the old stuff, not really enjoying much of it, mostly just examining all the Bill Yoshida lettering, until this one—Jughead in Love. The themed collections always work a little better than the random ones, but within the universe of Archie, this is the best theme—the guy who doesn’t fall in love falls in love.

That gives every story, in its very conception, a journey—how do you get from here to there. It’s like every rom com setup—you know the beginning of the movie, you know the ending, now let’s get you there.

Every other time one reads an Archie story, it could literally be anything from pap with the vaguest plot to the weirdest nigh-Dadaist non-story (there definitely were some of those in the thousands of pages I read—and I couldn’t tell you if they were bad or a crowning achievement of some sort). This one works on the very basic level of there being a story over there not being a story.

But still, my favourite hypothetical collection would be an omnibus with all the Harry Lucey stuff and nothing else. Make it happen, somebody.


From the commonplace book, June 2014, excerpts from an interview with the creator of the Twitter account @everyword:

About context:

Words aren’t just things that we write and use in our speech. They are also things we think about individually. Like sex, weed, swag—when they’re not in a sentence, we can also think about them individually. Everyword raises that question of thinking about a word just from that perspective, as a social object.

About the internet:

Whimsy is something that I’m very interested in evoking in people. I don’t like the concept of personalisation on the web. When I get on the internet it’s because I want to have a shared experience. I want to see what other people see. The internet is a way to find out what life is like for other people.

Favourite word:

My answer for it is probably kind of awful, but it’s “the”. It’s a really weird word. We think of it as a throwaway word that doesn’t mean anything but it really means a lot. And learning how to use it is really difficult for people learning to speak English for the first time. Viewing it from the outside, if you’re not an English speaker, it’s a weird, alien, mysterious thing.

Filed under #language and #internet.